We evaluated the effects of chronic oral supplementation with l-glutamine and l-alanine in their free form or as the dipeptide l-alanyl-l-glutamine (DIP) on muscle damage, inflammation and cytoprotection, in rats submitted to progressive resistance exercise (RE). Wistar rats (n 8/group) were submitted to 8-week RE, which consisted of climbing a ladder with progressive loads. In the final 21 d before euthanasia, supplements were delivered in a 4 % solution in drinking water. Glutamine, creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), TNF-α, specific IL (IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-10) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) levels were evaluated in plasma. The concentrations of glutamine, TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-10, as well as NF-κB activation, were determined in extensor digitorum longus (EDL) skeletal muscle. HSP70 level was assayed in EDL and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). RE reduced glutamine concentration in plasma and EDL (P<0·05 v. sedentary group). However, l-glutamine supplements (l-alanine plus l-glutamine (GLN+ALA) and DIP groups) restored glutamine levels in plasma (by 40 and 58 %, respectively) and muscle (by 93 and 105 %, respectively). GLN+ALA and DIP groups also exhibited increased level of HSP70 in EDL and PBMC, consistent with the reduction of NF-κB p65 activation and cytokines in EDL. Muscle protection was also indicated by attenuation in plasma levels of CK, LDH, TNF-α and IL-1β, as well as an increase in IL-6, IL-10 and MCP-1. Our study demonstrates that chronic oral l-glutamine treatment (given with l-alanine or as dipeptide) following progressive RE induces cyprotective effects mediated by HSP70-associated responses to muscle damage and inflammation.